Talking About Lead

Lead service lines, lead solder, lead in schools – these are hot topics regardless of where you live, the size of your community, and the source of your drinking water.  Everyone is scrambling to decide how best to remove lead as a drinking water contaminant.  But while the scientists and regulators are figuring all of this out, what do you say when your friends, neighbors, colleagues, or customers tell you about what they’ve heard or read?

Our colleagues at AWWA have developed a free toolkit, Lead and Drinking Water: Talking with Your Community, that discusses how to get your message out and what the basics of that message might be.  Go to www.awwa.org/leadcommunications and click on each of the four key resource elements:

  • Reach Your Customers
  • Tell the Whole Story
  • Engage Partners
  • Help Schools.

These links include templates for brochures, fact sheets, sample collection procedures, and presentations that you can use when talking to schools.  While not all of the materials may be right for a small system, they can be inspiration for systems to development their own messages.  The title document also contains a list of additional resources such as websites for EPA, CDC, and the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative.

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EPA Awards Competitive Grants in a New Two Year Cycle

WASHINGTON (April 11,2018) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing the award of more than $25 million in grants to help the country’s small drinking and wastewater systems and private well owners better protect public health and the environment.

“These grants will fund critical workforce development trainings that will help small systems improve operations and identify when repairs to drinking and wastewater infrastructure are needed in local communities,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA is committed to working with our partners in the states to provide all Americans with clean and safe water.”

Funding will be used to provide small public drinking water and wastewater systems with training and technical assistance to achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, improve operational performance, and help inform private drinking water well owners about protecting their drinking water supply and improving water quality. The training and assistance will also help system operators identify when critical infrastructure upgrades are needed and how EPA can help support those efforts, which is consistent with the goals and objectives of President Trump’s Infrastructure Plan.

The grantees are:

  • National Rural Water Association
    • $8.1 million: Provide training and technical assistance for small public water systems to achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act
  • Rural Community Assistance Partnership
    • $8.1 million: Provide training and technical assistance for small public water systems to achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act
    • $2.2 million: Work with small publicly-owned wastewater and on-site/decentralized wastewater systems to improve water quality
    • $3.4 million: Work with private well owners to improve water quality
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (on behalf of the Environmental Finance Center Network)
    • $3.6 million: Help small drinking water systems improve financial and managerial capacity to provide safe drinking water.

“The EPA grant support of NRWA has provided critical training and technical assistance to small systems across the country for many years,” said Matthew Holmes, NRWA Deputy CEO. This grant has assisted NRWA in establishing a leading nationwide program for Operator Certification Training, Continuing Education training sessions and SDWA compliance support. NRWA looks forward to continuing the program through 2018-2019.”

“RCAP is honored and excited to continue our partnership with EPA,” said Nathan Ohle, Executive Director, RCAP, Inc. These programs help provide small water and wastewater system staff and private well owners with technical assistance and training to ensure that every community across the country is protecting its public health and creating sustainable long-term solutions to drinking water and wastewater issues. Our partnership with EPA is vital to ensuring that small systems have the skills and expertise needed to support the water and wastewater systems that are so important to their community.”

“The Environmental Finance Center Network is grateful that EPA has selected us to continue our work with small drinking water systems on finance and management issues,” said Glenn Barnes, Associate Director, Environmental Finance Center at The University of North Carolina. “Over the last five years, we have worked with water systems of all kinds to address the same challenges: having appropriate revenues, getting the longest life out of infrastructure, having the right staff, accessing funding programs, reducing water and energy inefficiencies, and communicating to decision makers and to the public at large. We are excited for the opportunity to help these water systems better run their operations so that they can continue to provide clean, safe drinking water today and into the future”.

More than 97 percent of the nation’s 150,000 public water systems serve fewer than 10,000 people, and more than 80 percent of these systems serve fewer than 500 people. Many systems face unique challenges in providing reliable drinking water and wastewater services that meet federal and state regulations.

For more information on EPA’s programs and tools to help small water systems, visit: https://www.epa.gov/dwcapacity

EPA’s Monthly Small Water System Webinar Series

Registration is now open for EPA’s Small Drinking Water Systems Webinar on Simultaneous Compliance: Considerations for Adjusting Treatment.

DATE:              April 24, 2018

TIME:               2:00-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click here

This is a two-part broadcast that will consider both simultaneous compliance considerations and best practices (presented by Mike Finn, Office of Water) and the performance of full scale treatment systems for removal of co-occurring inorganic contaminants (presented by Tom Sorg, Office of Research & Development).

EFCN Tackles Cost Saving Technologies and Level of Service

Our colleagues at the Environmental Finance Center Network (EFCN) are offering two webinars of interest to state drinking water programs and the water systems they oversee.

  1. Technologies to Save Energy, Resources, and Time in Water System Operations

DATE:              April 25

TIME:               1:30-2:30PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click here

This webinar will provide attendees with information on some of the fundamental technologies allowing for efficient utility operation. We’ll answer the question, “What in the world is SCADA?” We will also discuss electric motor controls, remote monitoring in utility operations, and some niche and emerging technologies and how they may increase utility efficiency.

  1. Intermediate Asset Management – Level Up with Level of Service Goals!

DATE:              May 1

TIME:               2:00-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click here

Establishing level of service goals is one of the most unappreciated steps in asset management planning.  This webinar will teach you why small water systems shouldn’t skip this important step and simple ways to “level up” a utility’s asset management plan by establishing level of service goals.

Register Today – EPA’s Asset Management Community Call

DATE:              April 18, 2018

TIME:               1:00-2:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Click here

Are you looking for helpful tools and resources as you pursue asset management – as a trainer, as a water system, as a state program specialist?  Join EPA for this event to learn what’s available and how to use the array of tools, information, and strategies to best effect.  See the attached flyer for more information.  AM Community Call Flyer

NEW:  Knowledge Retention and Preventive Maintenance Log Tools

 

 

EPA has released two interactive tools to support water system operators in providing safe drinking water and protecting public health: the Knowledge Retention Tool and the Electronic Preventive Maintenance Logs.  Both resources can be found at this link, and are available for immediate download.

The Knowledge Retention Tool is a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet to record system management information in a single location, helping to increase organization and coordination among operators.  Designed to assist in personnel transition, the tool encompasses a wide variety of information that a new or contract operator would need to effectively manage and operate a small water system.

The Electronic Preventive Maintenance Logs are an electronic update (zip file) to the Preventive Maintenance Card File for Small Public Water Systems Using Ground Water released in 2004.  This tool includes fillable pdf logs for each month, this tool includes common daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, and a suggested schedule of annual tasks, which assist water system operators in planning and recording preventive operation and maintenance tasks for small drinking water systems.  This tool is designed to equip operators with many of the resources necessary to maintain SDWA compliance and provide safe drinking water to the communities they serve.

Questions?  Please contact EPA’s Leslie Temple at temple.leslie@epa.gov

EFCN Hosts Two New Small System Webinars

Our colleagues at the Environmental Finance Center Network are offering two new small system webinars:

 

Technologies to Save Energy, Resources, and Time in Water System Operations

DATE:              Wednesday, April 25

TIME:               1:30-2:30PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Register

Saving energy, resources, and operator time benefits water utilities of all sizes. This webinar will provide attendees with information on some of the fundamental technologies allowing for efficient utility operation. We’ll answer the question, “What in the world is SCADA?” We will also discuss electric motor controls, remote monitoring in utility operations, and some niche and emerging technologies and how they may increase utility efficiency.

Intermediate Asset Management – Level Up With Level of Service Goals!

DATE:              Tuesday, May 1

TIME:               2:00-3:00PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Register

Establishing level of service goals is one of the most underappreciated steps of asset management planning. Asset management allows utilities to maintain a desired level of service at the lowest life cycle costs. But how do we know if and when we are meeting our “desired” level of service?  This webinar will teach you why small water systems shouldn’t skip this important step of asset management, and simple ways to “level up” your utility’s asset management plan by establishing level of service goals today!

UNC-EFC Tackles Financial Resilience

The Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Caroline, Chapel Hill hosts a blog site that looks at water and wastewater needs, issues, concerns, and successes. One of their most recent posts looks at Local Government Financial Resilience and Preparation Before a Natural Disaster.

As the blog post notes, “…municipalities are becoming extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, making it necessary for local governments to become more resilient to catastrophes. Natural disaster resiliency often focuses on the built environment and hazard mitigation, but what about weathering the storm from a financial perspective?”  It goes on to suggest that communities should consider the following steps when evaluating the potential financial impacts of a natural disaster:  identify the probability and type of likely disasters, set a planning timeline, know about available funding sources, and set up a rainy day fund.

The blog post also contains numerous links to resources that can help a community understand and plan financially for a disaster.  One that stands out is Financial Planning for Natural Disasters: A Workbook for Local Governments and Regions.  The Workbook “…is designed to help local governments and regions understand their financial vulnerabilities to natural disasters, evaluate their financial capacity to cover the costs of those disasters, identify strategies to close the gap between financial vulnerability and capacity, and identify and address the spillover effects of neighboring local governments’ financial vulnerabilities to disasters.”

Addressing Affordability – AWWA Webinar

If you are an AWWA member, this event is free of charge.  Non-members must pay a $125 webinar registration fee.

DATE:              February 28

TIME:               1:00-2:30PM (eastern)

REGISTER:      Here

This webinar is an introduction to several models and approaches utilities are currently using to assist low-income customers and the tools the utilities are using to effectively reach low-income communities.  These models are presented against the backdrop of “Navigating Legal Pathways to Rate-Funded Customer Assistance Programs.”  Implementing a customer assistance program (CAP) is a way to ameliorate the effect of high water bills on vulnerable and low-income customers, an important and complex issue in many communities. This webinar will give examples of different customer assistance programs currently utilized by utilities and an overview of rate-funded CAPs.

WaterOperator.org – A Very Helpful Resource

Editor’s Note:  ASDWA invited WaterOperator.org to share some basic info about the program and highlight how it can be used as a resource for both state staff and small system operators.

As a primacy agency, you likely work with a limited and often-shrinking budget to carry out the programs delegated to you under the Safe Drinking Water Act. How you carry out your public health protection duties may look different from your neighboring states, but you share the problem of not having enough time and resources to support your systems the way you would like to.

U.S. EPA’s funding for training and technical assistance is designed to fill in some of those gaps and do so with a national perspective, creating opportunities to serve primacy agencies and water systems alike.  WaterOperator.org is a prime example.

Started in 2009 at the University of Illinois under the USEPA technical assistance centers program, WaterOperator.org provides easy access and relevant information to support you and your water systems. The completely free and unbiased website focuses on the challenges specific to small systems and houses a national training calendar and vast resource library, as well as delivers a twice-monthly newsletter.

Here are some of the key problems with using online information and the solutions WaterOperator.org provides:

  1. Helpful resources buried in confusing websites. Information is hard to find, sometimes even on your own agency’s website. Even if you know what you’re looking for, it can sometimes be a real challenge and time commitment to locate the information. WaterOperator.org provides value-added information for more than 18,000 free and publicly available resources, accessible via a nested search engine. The resources are constantly updated and leverage the best materials from over 800 state and federal agencies, technical assistance providers, trainers, and industry associations. If your website doesn’t have it, chances are someone else around the country does. And with WaterOperator.org, you can find it quickly and easily.

 

  1. Training events spread across multiple pages and sites. Within your jurisdiction, how many organizations are providing drinking water training to your systems? It is likely more than a dozen. WaterOperator.org indexes over 11,000 training events every year, all in one easy to search calendar, so you can feel confident sending operators, utility managers, and local decision-makers to it. WaterOperator.org’s staff has done the legwork to make it easy for you.

 

  1. Lack of time to keep abreast of industry news. Your day to day focuses on helping water systems protect public health. Travel to conferences and staying up to date on drinking water issues is not always easy or possible. WaterOperator.org’s staff are consistently searching for relevant information to support you. Their newsletter, which comes as an email twice each month, provides useful news you can use and share with the communities you serve. Every issue features a free upcoming webinar led by an industry organization, technical assistance provider, or compliance agency, as well as information on the newest resources available.

There’s no substitute for the face-to-face support you provide your water systems.  However, WaterOperator.org provides you access to information that saves time and effort by putting the best news, resources, and training events in one easy-to-access place.

WaterOperator.org is a collaboration between the Rural Community Assistance Partnership and the University of Illinois, funded by the USEPA. The best way to remember this essential tool is by signing up for the WaterOperator.org newsletter. If you and your staff would like more information or a demo of the site, contact WaterOperator.org at info@wateroperator.org.